When my husband and I started discussing how we wanted to celebrate our ten year wedding anniversary there was only one place on my mind. The Amanpulo, a private island resort in the Philippines. However this was not a decision to be taken lightly given the exorbitant prices. So I turned to Luxury Travel Consultant extraordinaire, Chinmoy Lad to seek his counsel. In one fell swoop he had me convinced that the Amanpulo was worth the splurge as we’d be able to maximise a short trip away from Hong Kong and the beaches were to die for. Booking through Chin was easy – he provides a great advisory service and has access to upgrades and exclusive benefits. He told me to book the flights from Hong Kong to Manila myself and he’d sort the rest. In fact I had a result on that as I later cancelled and rebooked our Manila flight when a cheaper Cathay fanfare come out. Chin kept on top of the latest deals and assured us that he would secure us with the best option available prior to our stay. We initially booked a Treetop Casita but found out two days before our trip we had been double upgraded to a Beach Casita. The only problem with this is that if we now ever return (I am already campaigning for the next visit), we won’t be able to stay in anything less than a Beach Casita!
Where is the Amanpulo?
Amanpulo is located on Pamalican Island, part of the Cuyo Islands in the north part of the Palawan province. It’s a surprisingly convenient trip from Hong Kong – we left our home at 7am and were on the beach by 2pm.
The dry season runs from November to May. We visited at the end of February and had beautiful weather bar one late afternoon where it became overcast and rained.
Getting to the Amanpulo
Whilst I had no qualms about leaving Mesdames Jetlag & Mayhem for 3 nights, I was apprehensive about the teeny plane you have to take from Manila to Pamalican Island. We flew with Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to Manila and after exiting Customs, you are collected by chauffeur and driven to the Island Aviation hangar.
I won’t lie, when I first saw the 19 seat Dornier plane, I wasn’t sure I would be able to get onboard (despite the red carpet welcome). Then I realised nobody else was panicking. I needed to pull my socks up, be grateful for the jet set experience and GET OVER IT. The flight takes about an hour and the views over Manila and then the islands are incredible. On arrival into Pamalican Island, you are greeted by the GM and a host of staff and then ushered on to your private golf buggy.
What was our Beachfront Casita like?
Our Casita was beautiful – a huge bed, living area and views out to the beach. The bathroom is bigger than most hotel rooms and if I could have packed the shower to take home with me, I would have done. Outside on the deck are two day beds and then down the stairs, a welcoming hammock.
The real draw for this room type of course is proximity to the beach. Tiptoe down a few steps and you will find yourself on the beach of your dreams. We spent the majority of our time lazing on these sun loungers, swimming and thanking ourselves our children weren’t there!
What is the island like?
Words don’t do this island justice. If I was designing a paradise island, this is what it would look like. You can walk around the entire island in just over an hour (which we did several times to try to work off the incredible food). The beauty of the Amanpulo is that even at full capacity, you barely encounter anyone else.
What is there to do?
There’s a whole host of complimentary activities available, from yoga and pilates to bikes and paddle boards.
Outside the Sea Sports Hut are kayaks and paddle boards that you are welcome to take out (windsurfing etc costs extra). The Amanpulo also runs twice daily snorkelling sessions. The protected marine reserve means you don’t have to venture very far to see the most amazing sealife. We snorkelled with enormous turtles about 10 metres our from our Beachfront Casita!
There’s also a gym, tennis courts, spa and swimming pool. Normally I’m a pool kind of ‘gal. But not at the Amanpulo where the sea is turquoise and the beach is white powder sand. I couldn’t tear myself away from it.
To get around the island, each room is given their own private golf buggy. This is a brilliant touch – I’ve stayed at several other resorts where you can waste time waiting for a golf buggy to collect you.
What are the dining options like?
The Amanpulo has various dining options from the Beach Club and Clubhouse Restaurant to a private beach BBQ. We opted for a half board package which meant we could eat breakfast and dinner anywhere, except for the Japanese restaurant (although you could put your credits towards it).
Overall the food was excellent and beautifully presented. Breakfast was the perfect mix of ‘let’s pretend to be healthy’ and ‘sod it, why not get a side of bacon and a rosti’. My favourite place to eat was the Beach Club, where you could sit and overlook the water. I highly recommend the tasty croquettes and paella for dinner.
Our package also included one hour at the Kawayan Bar, a floating bar that you can have exclusive use of. This was a magical experience – sunset drinks (thanks for the tip Chin!), ambient tunes and even a decadent chocolate cake and flowers thrown in to celebrate our wedding anniversary.
What’s so special about the Amanpulo?
There are two things that make this place stand out. Firstly the setting is idyllic. You could be sleeping in a raggedy tent and still be happy with your location. Secondly, the service is unrivalled. I now see why people consider ‘Amans’ the most exclusive luxury experience in the world. Every single staff member we encountered was friendly, helpful and charming. Special thanks must go to our personal butler Shah Rose who answered all our queries, made our bookings and even organised a special treat for our anniversary. Many of the staff come from the neighbouring island of Manamoc and it’s great to see Aman supporting their community.
I very rarely say I want to return to a hotel as I am of the opinion that life is short and there are so many other places to try. But as Charlie & Lola might put it, I really absolutely must go back to the Amanpulo. That said it was the most expensive place I’ve ever stayed (and don’t forget to factor in that second airfare!) so I need an extra special occasion to justify it… my 40th??
If you are considering the trip of a life time, do yourself a favour and speak to luxury specialist Chinmoy Lad through his website https://www.thesuitelife.com.hk/
He will talk you through the options and can offer upgrades and exclusive benefits.